Hospitals evacuated, many injured as wildfires ravage Northern California
At least two hospitals in Northern California evacuated patients as deadly wildfires spread across at least 57,000 acres, destroying 1,500 structures, officials said Monday.
Roughly 130 patients were evacuated from Kaiser Permanente’s Santa Rosa medical center on Monday morning. They were transported to Kaiser Permanente’s San Rafael center and other local hospitals and evacuation sites, according to a statement by the health system. Sutter Hospital in Santa Rosa also evacuated its patients.
“Kaiser Permanente is closely monitoring the situation in Napa and Sonoma counties,” the health system said. “Our top priority is the safety of our patients, members, staff and our community.”
Patients were captured on camera emerging from the hospital with protective masks, some using walkers or wheelchairs. Others were being wheeled on gurneys toward ambulances and city buses.
Hospitals in Napa and Sonoma counties have seen an influx of patients affected by the wildfires. Some of these patients have suffered serious burns, while many more have come in with breathing problems — including shortness of breath, dizziness, asthma and smoke inhalation, according to a statement by St. Joseph Health, which has received over 100 patients.
Some of these patients have come from the evacuated hospitals, including a handful of newborns and women in active labor, who were evacuated from Sutter Hospital to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.
The emergency department at Santa Rosa Memorial has received about 60 patients, two of whom are burn patients in critical condition, according to St. Joseph Health. The others suffered moderate and minor injuries.
In Napa, Queen of the Valley Medical Center has seen about 40 patients, mostly suffering from smoke inhalation. The hospital also saw and released a handful of patients with minor burns and transferred “one patient with significant burns to a burn center,” according to a statement from St. Joseph Health.
The health system added that it is also beginning to see people who were injured while evacuating, including individuals who fell or got into car crashes.
Others are simply coming to their hospitals in an effort to flee the fires. Those with no medical needs are being redirected to shelters.
“This fire is explosive,” said Cal Fire Battalion Chief Jonathan Cox, who also reported some injuries.
‘I wanted to help’
Brian Alexander, who works in environmental services at Kaiser Permanente, headed to the hospital after driving four neighbors in his apartment complex to nearby shelters.
“I couldn’t live with myself if someone died or couldn’t get help and I could have been there to stop it,” he said.
When Alexander finally got to the hospital, it was in the midst of evacuating all of its patients; the roaring inferno, visible from the patient rooms, crept closer with each minute.
Going through floors and preparing patients to evacuate, he helped move the heavy gurney beds toward the ambulances and city buses that would ferry the patients to safety.
Alexander remains at Kaiser Permanente with what he describes as a “skeleton crew” to maintain the hospital. They have no water; doctors and nurses are being sent to other hospitals and shelters.
“I came in because I wanted to help,” Alexander said.
He’s still unsure if his apartment escaped the inferno.
‘Limited to no containment’
What caused the simultaneous fires is unknown, according to Napa County Fire Chief Barry Biermann.
More than 14 major fires are burning across eight counties, forcing at least 20,000 people to evacuate. The biggest fires are burning in the Napa wine country.
Complicating firefighting efforts are hot and dry weather, high winds and low resources, according to fire officials.